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The latest update as of March 19, 2023

A few odds and ends on an "off" weekend

There wasn't a lot of detail attached to the "Action Against participant" statement on NHRA's nhraracer.com website, but the end result was that the Amalie Oil Gatornationals Top Fuel Champion, Mike Salinas was fined 20 points for apparently being underweight at some point during eliminations. Incorrect information was conveyed by NHRA to the "Scrappers Racing" team and that's what led to the penalty. The NHRA rulebook is quite clear that "the race team is always responsible for the weight of the car", henceforth the penalty, which is appealable, was levied.

There's a little more detail on the Competition Plus website, but no comments from Salinas have been made. We're not even sure if we'll ever hear/read about just when the weight infraction occured, but the mistake was made by NHRA and the team innocently took the incorrect information as correct.

The 20 point deduction effectively took away one round win from the event winner - and Salinas is still the official race winner - but he's now second in the points standings, four points behind runnerup Steve Torrence. It will be interesting to see if there is an appeal but based on what happened - or more exactly, what didn't happen when Tony Schumacher was fined $20,000 and 50 points after the Brainerd event last summer. That was a clearcut case of a team hurrying to make it to the next round of racing and they did intentionally leave some safety systems inactive. In retrospect, they would have been further ahead to have stayed in the pits. And, as far as we know, the team did not appeal the penalties.

3rd annual Funny Car Chaos Classic

With the coming week's weather forecast for the Dallas area being better - but far from perfect - we're keeping our fingers crossed that the event will finish on the rescheduled weekend. There are thunderstorms forecast for Thursday and showers for Friday, both days amounting to less than a quarter inch of rain, but with much warmer temperatures. The chance of precipitation on Saturday is nil, and Sunday - if an extra day is required to complete the race - has a very low probability of rain.

The racer numbers have held steady after just two competitors dropped off the Funny Car pre-entry list and four of the Fuel Altereds pulled out. That still leaves 66 serious race cars, plus numerous supporting classes to provide a performance extravaganza at the world's biggest Funny Car race. We've got at least one photographer on his way there and a second one might just make the trek down from Colorado. We'll have to wait and see on that point, but we will have photos, starting on Saturday.

Happening at the same time as the FCC race, the second event on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule, and it leads off a min-Western Swing. Following the NHRA Arizona Nationals will be the Lucas Oil Winternationals at the In 'n Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip, then after a one-week break, the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It's going to be a four weeks for NHRA competitors and after the Las Vegas national event, a Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Western Region event will be happening to make it four races in five weeks. The drag racing season is kicking it up a gear as the season gets going in a big way.

And we'll be covering the action as much as we can, with Bob Snyder and Dale Fackler on the road, and Bob Wilson at Northern Thunder headquarters working at the keyboard and watching all the action remotely. Remember: stay tuned to the "What's New" page for all the latest news from the world of drag racing.

The latest update as of March 15, 2023

Where have all the race tracks gone?

With the 38th annual - and final - NHRA Arizona Nationals happening next weekend at Phoenix, that will mark four national event tracks that have ceased to exist as dragstrips in the past six years. Stated another way, it's three tracks gone in three years. At this point, there's no new facilities on the immediate or long-term horizon, and several more tracks are in jeopardy of joining the Drag Strips That No Longer Exist list. In almost every case, it's business decisions that value the land much more for purposes other than motorsports. Englishtown still has a motorsports facility that caters to everything other than drag racing. In that case it was a noise abatement issue that the raceway tried to overcome but finally gave in to the inevitable.

Here's the list of NHRA national event tracks that have closed down in the past six years:

Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park (Chandler, AZ) - closing in 2023
Houston Raceway Park (Baytown, TX) - closed in 2022
Atlanta Dragway (Commerce, GA) - closed in 2021
Old Bridge Township Raceway Park (Englishtown, NJ) - closed the dragstrip in 2017

Two NHRA national events that are currently running have faced the reality that one or even two major events a year are not enough to offset the cost of keeping the gates open. For three years (2020 - 2022) Route 66 Raceway was off the national event schedule, but has returned to the Camping World Series this year. Admittedly, their 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic, but the track remained closed in 2021 and only reopened with a Lucas Oil series event last year. Virgina Motorsports Park has also dropped off the NHRA calendar, possibly permanently after hosting last year's Virgina Nationals. The track only ran the event three times, including 2022, and has decided the cost/benefit analysis doesn't work in their favour any longer.

There was a report on Competition Plus yesterday about how the track manager at No Problem Raceway (Belle Rose, LA) is working towards redeveloping the track into a national event worthy facility in the near future. With the closing of Houston Raceway Park and no national event caliber tracks in Louisiana, there is certainly room for No Problem Raceway to join the "fraternity" of NHRA national tracks.

Looking at how track closings are happening to all forms of motorsports leads me to a local story. Last September, after 69 years in continuous operation, Westshore Motorsports Park, formerly known as Western Speedway, (Langford, BC) closed down. It was a 4/10-ths of a mile banked oval that hosted literally thousands of races and exhibitions over nearly eight decades of operation before closing. The land is already cleared and will be used for a business park and residential housing, while the track operaters search for land suitable for a new facility.

And as that suitable land bank is always shrinking, the new location will most likely be much more remote than the now closed speedway. When it opened in 1954, Langford seemed far away from the much larger city of Victoria, and wasn't a nuisance to the small number of residents near the track. When we moved to Langford in 2016 we were surprised to hear how close we lived to the track when the cars fired up on our first weekend in our new home. The sound of the cars wasn't a bother but in the three years we lived close to it, a residential building boom drew closer and closer to the speedway. Eventually, the value of the land outweighed it's use for motorsports and that led to the closure of the track.

NHRA Top Alcohol points standings as of March 13

It's obviously very early in the 2023 season, with just one of the 14 national events on the Top Alcohol schedule completed, and only three of 24 regional races run. In other words, it's going to be a couple of months before the points standings turn into the championship chase. So far, there have been three events in the eastern half of the country, and just one in the west. THat's reflected by the fact that just two of the Top Ten dragsters and Funny Cars are from the west. That imbalance will swing slightly in the other direction over the next month as the next three events on the schedule, two national and one regional will be run at Pomona and Las Vegas. Except for the events in the final month of the season, participation by eastern racers at Pomona and Vegas doesn't usually happen. After the Las Vegas regional in April, we'll have a more balanced look at who the strongest runners and championship contenders will be this year.

NHRA TAD Points - March 13, 2023

With back-to-back wins at the Gainesville regional and national events, Julie Nataas has jumped into a solid lead in the standings, but is being closely chased by the not-quite-a-rookie phenom from Florida, Cody Krohn who lost to her in the final round of both Gainesville races. Not far behind Krohn is the 2021 runnerup for the championsip, Jackie Fricke who has a runnerup at one regional race and two semifinal finishes to her credit so far.

On the blown alky side of the class, the only two seriously competitive blown cars are last year's NHRA champion, Joey Severance, who took his fifth title in a great comeback season. Sitting four spots above him in the standings is perennial second place finisher (five times!), Canada's Shawn Cowie, who dominated and won the Phoenix race last month.

NHRA TAFC Points - March 13, 2023

In Funny Car, there hasn't been an appearance yet by one of the new A/Fuel (injected nitro) Funny Cars, despite several being built and nearly (?) ready to compete. Other than last year's one-off attempt at a Funny Car Chaos event by the Randy Meyer team, with Julie Nataas driving, and former dragster pilot Mick "The Real Deal" Steele has his new Mustang-bodied A/FC almost ready to go, no one has appeared in one so far this season.

Last season's #5 finisher in TA/FC, Matt Gill is off to a strong start, sweeping both Gainesville events to take a solid lead in the standings. Not far behind, but with one more race run, is Bob McCosh, who was runnerup at the two regional events before taking a tough first round loss at the Gatornationals. Winners of the first two regional events, Kyle Smith (Belle Rose), and Ray Martin (Phoenix), are in the Top Ten but neither racer has shown an inclination (or budget) to run a full schedule and compete for a championship.

Top Alcohol World Champions of the past five seasons, Doug Gordon (2020 & 2022), and Sean Bellemeur (2018, 2019 & 2021), have only competed once so far this year, with Gordon taking a runnerup at Phoenix to sit #8 in the standings, while Bellemeur was a suprising first round loser at the Gatornationals and is sitting #17 - last - in the standings. Those positions will certainly change very soon for both racers as they will be battling to keep the championship on the west coast for a sixth consecutive season.

Funny Car Chaos

With an ambitious nine race schedule this year, and an expanded four race Nitro Chaos companion series, the FCC promoters, Chris & Tera Graves will be busier than ever. Hoping to start the season with a barn burner event at the Texas Motorplex, the FCC team, in collaboration with the Motorplex folks, made the very difficult decision to postpone the season opener one week to avoid the dismal weather forecast this week. The racers understood the situation and to date, just one Funny Car entrant has dropped off the list, along with four of the Outlaw Fuel Altered competitors. That still leaves 54 funny cars and 16 fuel altereds, in addition to a host of support series to entertain the Texas fans next weekend.

With pre-entries now open for the first four races on their schedule, a total of 64 racers have signed up for at least one event. At this rate, the total of 83 racers that competed at least once last season will be topped well before the season finale on Labor Day weekend. And the all-time series record of 87 competitors in 2021 could well be in jeopardy. The Funny Car Chaos series has proven that it's not a flash in the pan operation, as it continues to grow in stature year by year. Real proof of it's strength is the number of former NHRA stalwarts that are competing on a part or more likely, full-time basis in the FCC. The reason is simple: the purses are better, the entry costs lower, the race distance shorter - hence less parts damage, and the fun factor is higher. It's a simple business model that works for the series organizers, the track promoters, the racers, and most important of all in the long run: the drag racing fans.

The latest update as of March 13, 2023

Funny Car Chaos Classic Funny Car Chaos Classic postponed


Here is the official word on the postponment of the event:

We are SO ready to get racing season underway! We know so many of you have thrashed to prepare for the big one! Decisions like this are never easy to make or taken lightly. Many factors have been evaluated and together the Texas Motorplex and Funny Car Chaos agree the best decision for all involved is to postpone the 3rd Annual Funny Car Chaos Classic by one week, now to be hosted Thursday through Saturday, March 23rd-25th.

Unfavorable, unsafe and unpleasant weather is forecasted and offer an extremely low possibility of completing this event safely. A complete wash out is called for on Thursday and temps in the low to mid-50s during minimal peak hours Friday and Saturday leave insufficient time to come close to completion. These conditions do not condone safe, timely, entertaining and competitive drag racing for the racers or spectators. Preliminary forecasts for March 23-25 are promising and indicate low 70s and sunny skies with a high chance of CHAOS in North Texas.

We wanted to make this decision in a timely manner to allow everyone the most time possible to adjust their plans. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause in your travel, but want to put our best foot forward in bringing you a safe, exciting, competitive and enjoyable weekend you, the racers and fans, deserve! The 3rd Annual Funny Car Chaos Classic will be fantastic and we hope to see you there!

The latest update as of March 12, 2023

Funny Car Chaos Classic

3rd annual FUNNY CAR CHAOS Classic

We were very surprised to hear that the Funny Car Chaos season opener at the Texas Motorplex has been postponed one week from March 16 - 18 to March 23 - 24, due to some unseasonably cool and wet weather scheduled for the coming weekend. The news was provided directly to our ace photog BIG Bob Snyder from the FCC Owner/Race Director Chris Graves earlier today. It's a wise decision for the vast majority of the competitors and spectators to prevent them from wasting a weekend that would almost certainly de wiped out by the weather.

The decision hasn't been posted on the Funny Car Chaos website yet, or on any of the other "mainstream" drag racing websites, but the information we received has to be considered as factual. More details will be posted as soon as they are available. The one slight downside to this situation, for this website, is that Mr. Snyder won't be able to attend the final NHRA Arizona Nationals that will be held on the same weekend as the rescheduled FCC Classic. One possible upside to that development might be - and a big might at that - that he might be able to attend the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals on the following weekend. Fingers crossed on that one though.

Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals

The 52nd annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals

In front of a sellout crowd, for the second day in a row, the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals were completed in fine fashion. The first round of eliminations, held earlier than usual at 10:00 am saw some incredibly quick and fast performances by the fuel cars, and Pro Mod racers. Two new faces graced the winners circle celebrations. They were Gaige Herrera in Pro Stock Motorcycle, in just his seventh national event, and Colby Fuller in Super Street.

Almost joining them was young (19-yr old) Cody Krohn who dominated the Top Alcohol Dragster field right up until the final round, where he fell to Julie Nataas in a Randy Meyer car. Krohn made one appearance in 2022, failing to qualify for a regional event, but started this year strong, qualifying at his first regional race, then losing in the final to Nataas at last week's "Baby Gators" regional, and again losing in the final today at his first national event. Krohn dominated qualifying, running consecutive passes of 5.162 and 5.170, then reeling off an even better 5.157 in the first round of eliminations, followed by 5.182 and 5.196 times before "slowing" to a 5.213 - 277.77 in the final.

Those numbers were his slowest e.t. and speed of the weekend in the Samsel Family (Robin & Tony) "rent-a-ride" and looks to be a harbinger of what will be a real battle between the three major players in the A/Fuel Dragster ranks. With Rich McPhillips tuning three cars, Randy Meyer two cars, and Tony Samsel one car, and all six racers ready to run full schedules and challenge for the world championship, it's certainly going to be a crowded Top Ten in the points standings in 2023.

The latest update as of March 11, 2023

Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals

The 52nd annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals

Day three dawned sunny and warm and it appears that everything is back on track at Gainesville Raceway. The grandstands were literally packed for the Top Alcohol cars, which is almost unheard of usually, and this was only 10:15 in the morning. Even with all those fans in the seats, the announcers reported a very large traffic jam on the roads leading to the track. It appears that the track may set an attendance record for the day and the event, which could be a very good omen for the 2023 Camping World Drag Racing Series.

The Top Alcohol cars completed their first round of eliminations to start the "fast" portion of the day, and the round saw more than a few upsets and one wild crash. Last year's #2 finisher in the points standings, Matt Cummings, driving the McPhillips Family car smoked the tires and lost to unheralded John Ausherman, who was running just his third national event after debuting halfway through the 2022 season. Things got back to normal for the long skinny cars after that, as rising star Cody Krohn pounded out a new low e.t. of the meet at 5.157 - 279.38 to eclipse his 5.162 and 5.170 qualifying passes. Then the round finished with Julie Nataas joining Krohn in the 5-teens, with a 5.170 coupled with top speed of the meet at 280.60 mph.

There were three very noticeable absences from the dragster field, as last year's #3 finisher, Jasmine Salinas failed to get down the track quicker than 16-seconds on both of her qualifying attempts in the McPhillips-tuned machine. One of the Randy Meyer Racing entries, driven by Hunter Green didn't fare much better with an 8-second pass being his best. And last year's #10 Top Alcohol Dragster racer, Karen Stalba in the Gene Gallant-tuned A/Fuel dragster pedaled her way to a best of 5.965 - 245.47 that fell well short of the mediocre 5.648 bump spot.

A few final notes on Top Alcohol Dragster: there was only ONE supercharged alcohol car in the field, against TWENTY injected nitro entries. It's not a great sign of parity, but the ratio of blown vs injected entries should change when the nationale event tour moves out west for the Pomona and Las Vegas races. Another note is the Canadian particpation in the Gatornationals field. Three cars came down, two from Ontario and one from Quebec, with Dan Mercier leading the group with a pair of low 5.20 runs, including a #4 qualifying 5.214 - 278.86 pass. Unfortunately, Mercier fell in the first round to Cory Michalek, despite running a very good 5.265 - 279.09. Michalek took the win with a slightly slower run, but a quicker leave, an .018 light to Mercier's .036 reaction. A tough way to lose in what might have been one of this final events in Top Alcohol, as he's planning to run the ex-Terry McMillen Top Fuel car on a more regular basis.

The other Canadian drivers, both from Ontario, met in the first round of eliminations, as Jeff Veale (#7) faced Jeff Chatterson (#10). Veale left first and finished first as he improved from his 5.308 qualifying time to a 5.280 - 276.92 to hold off Chatterson's solid 5.350 - 271.08 as both drivers improved over their qualifying efforts. Veale's win earned him a "date" with Julie Nataas in the second round, later this afternoon.

With only nine cars in the Top Alcohol Funny Car pits, there wasn't much drama in qualifying, but the top five cars were all qualifed at 5.505 or better. Only one car clocked in slower than #8 Ryan Stack's 5.645 effort. However, the real drama started early in eliminations as the second pair featured #2 qualifier Bob McCosh, and #9 (last) John Headley in what turned into a debacle. Headley left late, very late, with a .531 reaction time, while McCosh's wasn't that much better at .251, but things went south quickly as McCosh's car labored from the launch and finally banged the blower at half track. That left him coasting, while Headley limped down to the finish line with almost as much trouble, finally passing McCosh at the stripe and turning on the winlight by less than half a car length.

But that wasn't the end of it, as Headley made an immediate right turn into McCosh's lane, passing in front of him and smashing head-on into the wall before the 'chutes even came out. Miraculously, McCosh was able to avoid his out of control opponent, and slowed to a safe stop while Headley was able to exit the remains of his under his own power. The body was broken in half, the front half of the chassis was twisted at nearly a 45 degree angle, and the crash most likely ended Headley's Funny Car career.

However, that wasn't the end of the round as the next pair saw multi-time champion, Greg Bellemeur in the "Killer B's" car get out of shape, pedal and try hard to make up the gap to Canadian Ryan Stack who had troubles of his own but got to the finish line first by a 5.604 - 259.46 to 5.864 - 259.36 for Bellemeur. Stack nearly hit the wall before half track and then had the car skating around in the shutdown area, but got it reined in to a safe stop. The round ended with top qualifier D.J. Cox Jr. having trouble in the right lane on his bye run, but kept the shiny side shiny and got to the finish line under power.

The final qualifying session for Pro Mod followed the Top Alcohol cars, and there were several instances of cars getting out of control in both lanes, but with the lack of downforce on those cars, it's not totally unexpected. More news from Gainesville tomorrow, as we're out of time to work on the website today. As always: stay tuned!

The latest update as of March 9, 2023

Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals

After a four day NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event, the "Baby Gators", then three days of Pro testing, the 52nd running of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals started this morning at Gainesville Raceway. By the time the smoke clears on Sunday afternoon, it will be 11 straight days of running at the track. And quite a few racers have been there for all eleven days.

All the PRO fields are full, and Top Alcohol Dragster has 22 entries, but no late surge of last-minute applications arrived for the Alky Funny Cars, leaving them with just nine cars for what was advertised as a 16-car field. I guess everyone is still waiting for all the injected nitro funnies to magically appear and save the class. Or not.

The Top Alcohol cars have one qualifying session today, then things get serious tomorrow with two sessions for the Pro cars and two more qualifier for the alky/nitro burners. Saturday sees the final two qualifying sessions for the Pro racers, and the first two rounds of eliminations for the Top Alcohol gang. As always, final eliminations are on Sunday.

Saturday photos and reports from the March Meet

After a few days of "radio silence", our faithful Colorado correspondent, Dale Fackler recovered enough from his "drive from hell" home from the March Meet to go through his photos and send off a bunch for us to post. Now all we have to do is find time to get it done in a timely manner. We've managed to post almost all of the Saturday photos, but there's still the captions and details to fill in. That will take a day or three.

We've got a raft of photos of our favourite local Top Fuel racer, Phil Ruskowski (Victoria, BC) and we'll be posting most of them separately tomorrow.


Bruce Boardman - 'Bad Obsession' - D/G --- The Roach Coach

(LEFT) We're starting with some sportsman shots, this one featuring Bruce Boardman, running in D/Gas with his '55 Chevy, aptly titled "Bad Obsession".

(RIGHT) Shifting to a completely different animal, we've got what used to be called a "Competition Coupe", but unfortunately we have no idea what eliminator this car competes in or who the driver is. It appears to be loosely based on a Fiat Topolino, but there's several of them competing in different categories so we'll just have to call this one "unidentified".

NOSTALGIA TOP FUEL - Qualifying Session #2

The pressure was squarely on the non-qualified, or at least not safely qualified drivers going into this session. With a not terribly stiff 6.160 bump spot, held down by Jim Murphy, and some very heavy hitters sitting directly below him, all signs pointed to an intense session of Top Fuel competition. With one final session on tap for late in the day, everyone wanted to make this session count.

Tyler Hester - 'Overtime Special' --- Michael Anderson

(LEFT) Already solidly in the field in the #4 spot, Tyler Hester and the gang working on the "Overtime Special" inched up the ladder a few hundredths, from Friday's 5.893 to an even better 5.874 - 221.42 time, despite a rather early shutoff.

(RIGHT) Coming all the way from Texas, Michael Anderson also picked up a bit from his first session 6.466, but it wasn't nearly enough, as his 6.361 - 215.31 effort left him four spots short of making the 8-car field.

Bryan Hall - 'H&H Nomad' --- Bryan Hall - 'H&H Nomad'

Qualified in the #6 spot coming into the session with a 6.022 - 242.45, Bryan Hall in the "H & H Nomad" entry was able to break into the 5-second zone with a stronger 5.906 - 226.96 that moved him up one rung to #5 on the ladder. Despite getting off the throttle a little early, the Nomad showed some solid potential going into eliminations.

Phil Ruskowski - Xhibitionist --- Phil Ruskowski - Xhibitionist

Phil Ruskowski - Xhibitionist --- Phil Ruskowski - Xhibitionist

After jumping out of the groove and heading for the centerline, a few hundred feet into Friday's first session, Victoria, BC's Phil Ruskowski hoped for a much better result in his second attempt. However, the "Xhibitionist" ran out of power early and coasted to a 7.341 - 144.66 that left him outside the field in the #14 position.

Adam Sorokin - 'Champion Speed Shop' --- Pete Wittenberg - 'Circuit Breaker'

(LEFT) It was another disappointed team, as usual qualifiers, the ""Champion Speed Shop" car with Adam Sorokin at the wheel, failed to make the cut for the first time in several years. After carding a 6.307 - 193.18 in the first session, they only improved to a 6.234 - 210.18 in this second session, leaving them just one more chance to break into the field.

(RIGHT) Sitting at the top of the list after the first day with a solid 5.820 - 227.46 pass, the "Circuit Breaker" car, driven by Pete Wittenberg, managed to hang on to the top rung despite not improving in this session. Fortunately, the next two drivers on the ladder also failed to better their Friday times.

Shayne Stewart

Transplanted Australian, Shayne Stewart, who now lives in Orange, CA, didn't have any better luck this time around, and remained in the #13 spot with his Friday 6.743 - 135.67 performance.

NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR - Qualifying Session #3 (FINAL)

Drew Austin - 'Pro-Max Racing' --- Drew Austin - 'Pro-Max Racing'

Pulling up to the stage beams under the watchful eye of father Pat, young Drew Austin readied the Boss 429 Ford-powered "Pro Max Racing" entry for another quick pass. They came into this final session in the #8 position with a strong 5.757 - 241.07, but failed to better those numbers and finished qualifying in the middle of the field in the eighth spot. It was interesting to note though that their 252.28 mph speed in Friday's first qualifier, indicated some serious horsepower under the Mustang "Cobra" body.

Billy Morris - 'Problem Child' --- Brad Thompson - 'Jailbreak'

(LEFT) The "Problem Child" didn't quite live up to its nickname after carding a 5.873 - 235.02 in Friday's first session, but Billy Morris and crew chief Eddie Knox weren't able to better that run in the second or third qualifiers. Morris sat #9 after the first session, dropped to #11, and finally landed in the #12 spot as qualifying closed.

(RIGHT) Always contending for the best "BUG" (back-up girl) award, Brad Thompson rebounded from a first session 6.455 pass to a strong 5.889 at a booming 258.22 in Friday's second round. He contiuned his upward trajectory in the finals session, pushing the "Jailbreak - System 1" Camaro to an even better 5.839 to snag the #11 spot in the final order.

Bobby Cottrell - 'Bardahl Special' --- Matt Bynum - 'Nitro Nick'

(LEFT) Receiving able assistance from Heidi Austin-Root in reversing after the burnout, Bobby Cottrell followed her direction to put the "Bardahl Special" in the right spot for a good launch. It certainly worked well as Cottrell dropped a bomb on the rest of the field, blasting into the 5.60's with a low qualifying 5.661 - 256.50 to snatch the top spot away from Tim Boychuk's 5.692 pass on Friday.

(RIGHT) Still having trouble getting the car up to speed, Tim Bynum and the "Nitro Nick" Firebird did improve from a no time in the first session, to a 7.418 in the second session, and finally a 6.142 - 225.60 in the final qualifier. Unfortunately, that placed him #17 in a 16-car field. However, redemption came later in the day when Geoff Monise announced that the "Quarter Pounder" was broken and wouldn't make the first round of eliminations. That opened the door and Bynum happily accepted his second chance.

Jim Maroney - 'Speed Sport' --- Rian Konno - 'Kazanjian, Lemon & Konno'

(LEFT) With NHRA Top Fuel racer Jim Maroney at the controls, the "Speed Sport" Omni started his weekend in the #10 after Friday's first session, but and was able to improve on his initial 6.205 - 229.16 pass, cranking out a 6.112 - 238.17 in the second session, but falling to #14 in the process. Things didn't get any better for Jim in his final qualifier and he slipped one more notch to #15 in the final order.

(RIGHT) Opening his card with a 26-second pass on Friday, then improving to a 6.554 - 136.37 on his second try to hang on to a very tenuous bump spot, Rian Konno was unable to better that time in the final session and finished qualifying in the #18 position and on the outside looking in as eliminations began. It was a hard landing for the usually hard running "Lemon, Kazanjian & Konno" team.

Chris Davis - 'Old School Nitro'

Hoping to move up the charts from his #15 spot in the field, Chris Davis was unable to better the "Old School Nitro" car's Friday best of 6.132, and saw himself drop to the last spot, #16, and a first round pairing with Bobby Cottrell. Both are Washington state cars, but on very different ends of the performance spectrum.

AA/FUEL ALTERED - Qualifying Session #2 (FINAL)

After just eleven cars got down the track in Friday's only qualifying session, there were a full "baker's dozen" (13) cars in the lanes for Saturday's second qualifier. Just eight cars would qualify in the 6.00-indexed field, but the session started with Mike Halstead on the bump spot with a rather weak 7.45 e.t.

James Generalao Jr. - 'Impatient' --- Johnny West - 'Plan A'

(LEFT) Not appearing on the qualifying sheets after Friday's session, the Las Vegas-based "Impatient" '23 T of James Generalao Jr. made a big statement in the final qualifying session with a 6.137 at only 199.61 mph as he shut off early to stay above the 6.00 index. The pass was good enough to land in the top half of the field in the #3 position.

(RIGHT) A veteran of blown fuel cars since the early 1970's, Arizona's Johnny West was sitting #2 on the ladder going into this final session, but dropped all the way to #6 as he was unable to replicate or better his Friday 6.217 - 215.26 performance.

Bob Godfrey - 'Burnin' Money' --- Dylan Winefsky - 'Nitro Moose'

(LEFT) With nowhere to go but up after barely getting to the finish line on Friday and sitting at the very bottom of the field, Bob Godfrey made his second attempt in the aptly named "Burnin' Money" '23 "T" truck, but he didn't have much better luck, finally stopping the clocks at 19.589 - 55.67 to sit at the very bottom of the final qualifying list in the #13 position.

(RIGHT) Hoping to followup his breakout performance at the 2022 March Meet, where he ran in the 6-teens and made it to the semifinals, second generation driver Dylan Winefsky piloted the "Nitro Moose" '32 Bantam to low e.t. of Friday's qualifying round, pounding out a 6.192 - 223.50 to lead the field going into the final session. He ran slightly better in this session, cranking out a 6.176 - 219.51 but saw his placing drop three spots to #4 in the final order. All in all, a great start to the weekend for the Arizona youngster.

Derrick Moreira - 'Nitro Junkies' (near lane) 
vs Matt Leonard- 'Nitro Rat' (far lane) --- Derrick Moreira - 'Nitro Junkies' (near lane) 
vs Matt Leonard- 'Nitro Rat' (far lane)

Doing double duty with his "Nitro Junkies" '48 Fiat and his new Nostalgia Funny Car, Derrick Moreira was hoping to make a big jump up the ladder from outside the field in the #9 spot after running 7.877 - 110.11 in the first qualifier. He did just that with a very much improved 6.187 - 200.95 in Saturday's lone session, good enough to grab the #5 spot in the field going into eliminations. Visible in the far lane in the right photo was Matt Leonard in his "Nitro Rat" as he was bumped out of the show by Moreira's run. Leonard was #6 going into the final session but fell to #9 after failing to better his earlier 6.737 - 204.45 effort.

Jason Pettit - 'Hell Fire II' --- Keith Wilson - 'Witch Doctor' - NPC

(LEFT) With what appears to be a very unfinished car, the stretched nose '48 Fiat Topolino "Hell Fire II", driven by Jason Pettit laid down a 6.443 - 222.84 on Friday to grab the #5 spot in the field. He wasn't able to improve on those numbers Saturday and saw his ranking drop to the #8 spot, but still in the field for eliminations.

(RIGHT) Our last AA/Fuel Altered was actually qualifying for the Nitro Pro Comp show as the "Witch Doctor" has shown a penchant for running quicker, and sometimes much quicker than the 6.00 Fuel Altered index. Driver Keith Wilson showcased that trait again on Friday with a 5.738 e.t. at "only" 218.05 mph. That was enough to break out of the 5.90-index set for the Pro Comp field. On this pass he was able to tame the car down to a 6.352 - 161.23, by shutting off at 1000' mark.

NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR - Eliminations Round #1

Cory Lee - 'Pedaler' --- Cory Lee - 'Pedaler' (near lane) vs 
Derrick Moreira (far lane)

In the right lane, it's itinerant drag racer extraordinaire Cory Lee in Gary Turner's "Pedaler" Challenger, coming into the opening match of the first round of eliminations from the #3 qualifying position. Facing him in the far lane was the mostly obscured entry of Hawaii's Derrick Moreira who sat #14 on the ladder. The drivers left together, but Lee had to pedal the car right off the line and fell back quite a bit before pounding on the loud pedal to the tune of a 6.367 - 247.84, but it wasn't nearly enough to catch Moreira's first time in the five's 5.955 - 227.34 effort.

Tim Boychuk - 'Happy Hour' --- Chris Davis - 'Old School Nitro'

(LEFT) With almost all the cards in his favour, Canada's Tim Boychuk was ready to race in his Twig Ziegler-tuned "Happy Hour" Camaro. Opponent Jim Maroney (not shown) qualified 13 spots below Boychuk and finished well back in this race, as his 6.080 - 211.23 couldn't begin to keep up with Boychuk's very strong 5.774 - 247.75 blast. Maroney did get the "Speed Sport" launched first, but his three hundredths advantage was gone before they passed the 60' timers.

(RIGHT) The biggest David vs Goliath match in the field was next, as the #16 qualifier, Spokane's Chris Davis, in his "Old School Nitro" Arrow faced the top dog in the field, the Austin & O'Brien "Bardahl Special" with Bobby Cottrell in the saddle. Davis gave it his best shot with a decent 6.176 - 117.34, but Cottrell trainlengthed him early and ran away to a 5.685 - 254.62 to nearly match his low e.t. of the meet, a 5.661 recorded in the final qualifying session.

Kris Krabill - 'Bartone & Lebor Racing' (near lane) 
vs Ryan Hodgson - 'Bubble Up - Pacemaker' (far lane) --- Tim Boychuk - 'Happy Hour'

(LEFT) With a very colourful Darrell Gwynn banner on the side of the "Bartone & Lebor" car, Washington State's Kris Krabill faced Ryan Hodgson in the (mostly obscured) "Pacemaker - Bubble UP" Firebird. With a nearly three tenths advantage in qualifying e.t.'s, Krabill added to that advantage by leaving on Hodgson by nearly a tenth, then running away to a low e.t. of the round 5.667 - 247.97 as Hodgson slowed to a 6.313 with a lot of death smoke trailing him through the lights.

(RIGHT) On the return road, with Derrick Moreira's car behind him and his own car on the far side, is a happy first round winner, Tim Boychuk, heading back to the pits. Boychuk had jumped out of his tow vehicle to watch the Krabill vs Hodgson race.

Brad Thompson - 'Jailbreak' BUG --- Tony Jurado - 'Capitol Punishment'

(LEFT) We haven't got much of the car in this shot, but all of Brad Thompson's reverse gear assistant, before he blasted to a new career best e.t. - by a bunch - at 5.671 - 254.90 to easily outdistance Kamaka Pocock (not shown), who clocked in at 5.877 - 249.16 in the losing effort.

(RIGHT) Up to the 1000' mark. Tony Jurado in the "Capitol Punishment" Camaro was running neck-and-neck with opponent Billy Morris (not shown) before the "Problem Child"'s engine expired in a large cloud of smoke. Morris had an eight hundredths reaction time advantage and was running well before the blowup. Jurado got the win with a 5.901 - 251.30, while Morris coasted across the stripe at 6.250 - 175.50 for the loss.

There were two more pairs in the first round but unfortunately we don't have photos of those matches. There was a very lengthy cleanup from Morris's engine explosion, and with the light quickly fading, and temperatures falling even faster, our photographer made the wise decision to head for the motel and warm up. The first pair that ran after the Morris vs Jurado race were Ryan Horan and Mike Peck Sr., and they engaged in a very entertaining pedalfest, with both drivers working the throttle hard before Horan stopped the timers at 8.173 - 232.47, while Peck finished second at 8.526 - 175.50. For the record, Peck did leave first, by a .153 to .309 (!!) margin, but the margin at the finish line was still nearly two tenths of a second.

The first round ended with Drew Austin easily advancing over Matt Bynum by a 5.855 - 247.02 to 6.590 - 155.29 verdict. Austin also left first by nearly half a tenth before running away from Bynum's early shutoff effort, as he trailed copious clouds of smoke going into the lights. And that put a wrap on Saturday's action at the Good Vibrations March Meet.


Due to work commitments, our intrepid photographer, Dale Fackler had to hit the road back to Colorado as it appeared that Sunday was going to be a total rainout. The hard working Famoso track crew did get the surface dried long enough to run three of the four pairs in the Nostalgia Funny Car quarterfinals before the rain came back and washed out the balance of the day's racing.

With the heavy air and cool track temps, the conditions on Sunday afternoon weren't great, but the first pair down the track, veteran Brad Thompson and upstart Derrick Moreira put on a good race. Conditions weren't bad at all, as Thompson backed up his first round 5.671 pass with an almost as great 5.676 to hold off Moreira's new career bests of 5.873 - 244.07 in a losing cause.

Next up were Tim Boychuk and young Ryan Horan, and it quickly got interesting as Horan put a major holeshot on Boychuk, with an .025 to .175 light. However, Horan didn't hold the lead for long as he faded near the top end, finally getting across the finish line at 6.097 - 193.10, while Boychuk cranked out a great 5.737 - 248.43 for the win. It wasn't enough to earn lane choice against Thompson in the semifinals though.

Matching wheels for the first 800' were Kris Krabill and Tony Jurado, with Krabill leading off the line by half a tenth. Things got quite in Krabill's lane before the 1000' mark as he coasted across the stripe at 6.346 - 146.07. Taking the winlight was Jurado with a very solid 5.776 - 251.77 effort to earn the right to face either Drew Austin or Bobby Cottrell in the next round.

That final pairing of the round saw close launches, with Bobby Cottrell taking a .021 reaction time advantage, and hanging on to turn on the winlight with a 5.697 - 256.41 over an oh-so-close 5.705 - 256.65 for young Drew Austin. The margin at the finish line was less than a car length in what was the closest race of eliminations. Adding to the drama was the intra-mural battle between the Austin family, with Grandfather Walt and father Pat on Drew's team, all of them facing Uncle Bucky and Cottrell on the other side.

The semifinals saw one very close race and one runaway. First out were Tim Boychuk and Brad Thompson and it was all over by the 60' mark. Thompson reacted first by a few thousandths, but instantly went into heavy tire shake, leading to a blower pop and just enough momentum to coast down to the finish line. Taking full advantage was Boychuk, as he slowed slightly with some burned pistons, but put down a decent 5.849 - 241.67 to advance to the final round. Facing him in that round would be the winner of the Cottrell versus Jurado pairing. Bobby Cottrell did his job on the starting line, leaving first by eight hundredths, then hanging on for the holeshot win, as his 5.821 - 249.76 stopped the clocks first. Tony Jurado gave it all he had with a tremendous 5.782 - 256.80, but he crossed the line abpout 3/4-ths of a car behind.

The final round was dripping with dramatic overtones, as the hard working Austin & O'Brien team had been thrashing between every round to keep the car running. There was hardly a run all weekend that didn't come at a price in parts and labour. On the other side, "Team Canada" was cool and calm with a combination of new parts that was working well. But it all came undone when they lowered the body behind the burnout box and shorted out the mag, killing the motor. With no chance to refire, Tim Boychuk could only watch in horror as Bobby Cottrell took the automatic win. And that one didn't come easy either, as the engine let go again before the 1000' mark, slowing the "Bardhal Special" to a 6.094 - 179.04 clocking.

The latest update as of March 7, 2023

As reported on the home page, the 65th annual Good Vibrations March Meet was completed yesterday at Famoso Dragstrip. After two days of on-and-off-and-on rain and cool temperatures, the weather cooperated long enough on Monday to complete eliminations in all classes except Nostalgia Top Fuel. The AA/Fuel Dragster group made the collective decision to postpone eliminations until the Friday of the California Hot Rod Reunion in late October. After a weekend that saw them go from what was supposed to be a guaranteed 16-car field, to an 8-car show, then an 8-car field and a 4-car "consolation" eliminator, the front engine fuel racers decided to go home and reflect on what happened before coming back to Bakersfield eight months from now.

With eliminations completed in Nostalgia Funny Car, and not wanting to wait for NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series points standings to be posted, we've got the Top Ten in the 2023 standings below.

NHRA Heritage Series AAFC Points March 7, 2023

Interestingly, this morning one of the headlines on the NHRA website was the announcement of the Legends Nitro Funny Car series running in conjunction with the Hot Rod Heritage Series this year. Read the full story here. Besides running at the six heritage series races, the Legends will compete in 8-car shows at three NHRA Camping World Series national events. First up is the upcoming Lucas Oil Winternationals, then the Thunder Valley Nationals, and at the 9-race series final event of the year, the Nevada Nationals, where the group debuted last fall.

Checking out the Legends Nitro Funny Cars website indicates that 11 race teams are part of the group, with an invitation for others to join. Seven of the 11 cars listed on the website qualified at Famoso, one, Bill Windham (one of the series founders) failed to make the 16-car field, and three others didn't attend. It will be interesting to see if more racers join the Legends, how many will be attending each event, and just how they progress through the season. One factor in their favour will be coverage on the NHRA broadcasts on Fox Sports.

In Northern Thunder news, we are working on captioning and detailing the photos we've already posted from the March Meet and will have that project finished later this week. Looking ahead, we've applied for media credentials at one of the premier events on the Heritage Series circuit, the 52nd annual Nightfire Nationals at Firebird Raceway in Boise (actually Nampa), Idaho. It's in early August where the weather is expected to be hot... and hotter, but it's been on my personal bucket list for quite a few years, and hopefully will come to fruition in 2023.

The latest update as of March 6, 2023

Monday Morning Musings

It was quite a weekend of racing with three races on two coasts. One NHRA Heritage Series event (Bakersfield, CA), an NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Eastern Regional (Gainesville, FL), and the much ballyhooed $100K to win "World Series of Pro Mod" (Bradenton, FL). Two of the three races were completed yesterday despite some weather challenges. Saturday was a near total washout for the Gainesville event, on Friday afternoon there were high winds at Bradenton that held up proceedings for a few hours, but the real whammy was delivered at Bakersfield. Rain on Saturday evening persisted until Sunday morning before final eliminations got off to a late start. That lasted through three pairs of Nostalgia Funny Cars before the rain started again, finally causing the plug to be pulled for the day.

The "sportsman" (Group 1 & 2) racers are scheduled to complete their eliminations this morning, and the weather forecast shows minimal chance of rain, but the "Pro" cars (Nostalgia Funny Car, AA/Fuel Altered, and Nitro Pro Comp) will complete their eliminations at date(s) to be determined. It has been announced that Nostalgia Top Fuel will run their entire eliminations at the California Hot Rod Reunion in October. After all the machinations of the weekend, seeing their 16-car field cut to 8-cars, then seeing a 4-car "consolation" field created at the last minute for the quickest four (9 - 12 on the list) non-qualifiers, the Top Fuel racers must be heading home with a very sour taste in their mouths.

It will be interesting to see how the events - and non-events - of the 65th annual Good Vibrations March Meet play out in the coming days, weeks, and months. And how it's going to affect - or not - the rest of the 2023 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series schedule. Stay tuned for more news on that. The most positive news to come out of Famoso was the full grandstands on Friday and Saturday, and pit areas full of racers eager to start their season.

The "Baby Gators" at Gainesville Raceway

Despite the rain on Saturday, the Top Alcohol racers all stayed for the Sunday eliminations, under sunny skies. An over-subscribed field of dragsters - 19 in all - tried to qualify into the 8-car field which closed with a 5.317 bump spot, and the first three alternates in the 5.30's. Even if they expanded the show to 16 cars, the bubble would have been a decent 5.619 e.t. Interestingly, the field was the largest since the 2016 Norwalk event. Sadly though, the ratio of injected to blown cars was 18 - 1, with Dan Dietrich being the only supercharged entry on the grounds. He finished as the 7th alternate with a 5.617 best in qualifying.

The Funny Car field was much slimmer, with just seven cars showing up. Despite the much hyped addition of injected nitro as an induction option for the 2023 season, participation in the class seems to be still declining. With just a few hours remaining before entries close for this week's Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, there are still only nine cars on the pre-entry list. Compare that to the 20 Top Alcohol dragsters on the list, again with a preponderance of nitro-burning entries: 17 injected versus 3 blown cars.

Taking the wins at the Gainesville regional were Julie Nataas in her Randy Meyer Racing entry, with low e.t. and top speed in the final round, at 5.202 - 280.89 to show that the team is serious about finishing much higher than last year's #6 in the world championship standings. The Meyer team will have two full-time racers this year, with Hunter Green and Nataas both running full schedules. They'll be facing some tough competition with the McPhillips gang fielding three cars, as last year's #3 finisher Jasmine Salinas is back, along with Matt Cummings, and "rookie" Tony Stewart in a brand new car. All three racers are running a full schedule which is going to keep Rich McPhillips Sr. (Pops), and Richie very busy in 2023. While Stewart and Cummings both lost in the first round on Sunday, Cummings took the top qualifying spot with a very good 5.223 - 276.73 effort.

The Robin & Tony Samsel team has a new driver this year, with Cody Krohn at the wheel of their hot rod and early indications are that they will be another team to watch, as Krohn went all the way to the final round against Nataas. He qualified #3 with a 5.238 - 271.41, then stayed in the .20's until slowing to a 5.318 - 262.59 to lose a close race for the wally.

Much more to come on this and other stories tomorrow. For now, we're anxiously awaiting news and photos from Saturday's action at Bakersfield. Stay tuned.

The latest update as of March 5, 2023

March Meet 2023

It's the fourth (or fifth or sixth, depending on how you count it) day of the 2023 March Meet. Qualifying finished yesterday and the first round of Nostalgia Funny Car was run late on Saturday afternoon. Despite a bad weather forecast (rain!), the rain has stopped and track drying is underway as this is being written. Our faithful correspondent, Dale Fackler is on hand and will be at the starting line to capture any and all on-track action. It was a late finish last night so yesterday's photos haven't arrived yet and may not be available until after the weekend. When we get them, we'll post them. And fill in all the results.

The latest update as of March 4, 2023

March Meet 2023

We've received a large batch of photos from Friday's first qualifying sessions, but we've only got time to post a handful of them today. Personal obligations are going to use up our time for the rest of the day. Look for the balance of the Friday fotos - and Saturday's - on Sunday morning. As always: stay tuned!

NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR Qualifying Session #1

Tim Boychuk - 'Happy Hour' --- Bobby Cottrell - 'Bardahl Special'

(LEFT) Starting the season with a new determination and lots of new parts, Tim Boychuk ran into nothing but trouble on his first pass as the "Happy Hour" Camaro shook the tires, then went into a front wheel shimmy that broke the steering. The net result was a 30-second e.t. at 35 mph and a spot near the bottom of the field.

(RIGHT) Having a much better result than Thursday's explosion and fire, Bobby Cottrell whipped Bucky Austin & Ed O'Brien's "Bardahl Special" to a solid 5.803 - 250.64 to grab a spot in the top half of the field.

Drew Austin - 'Pro-Max' --- Mike Peck Sr. - 'Quote Wizard'

(LEFT) With a new look and new Mustang body, third generation racer Drew Austin fell in right behind "Uncle Bucky's" car as the "Pro-Max" team saw a 5.816 - 252.28 light up the scoreboards. With dad Pat and grandfather Walt calling the tuning shots, the "WAR Racing" team is looking for another good season after falling back a little, performance-wise, in 2022.

(RIGHT) After sitting out most of the 2022 season in favour of son Mike Jr., the "Qoute Wizard" Camaro of Mike Peck Sr. ran the first 5.70 of the event, with a very strong 5.754 - 253.04 showing that he wasn't just filling in for his son.

Tony Jurado - 'Capitol Punishment' --- Derrick Moreira

(LEFT) After spending two years and tons of money running an NHRA "Big Show" Funny Car, Tony Jurado brought out his beautiful "Capitol Punishment" Camaro at the final event of the 2022 Heritage Series season. He runner-uped at the California Hot Rod Reunion, and his opening pass here clocked in at 5.745 - 255.97 to grab at least a temporary hold on the top rung on the ladder.

(RIGHT) Our final photo from this session shows the still unlettered new car of Hawaii's Derrick Moreira didn't get the result he was looking for as the car broke and oiled the track, resulting in a DQ of his first qualifying pass.

NOSTALGIA TOP FUEL Qualifying Session #1

Frank McBee Jr. -'Valley Thunder' --- Bryan Hall - 'H & H Nomad'

(LEFT) After only one unsuccesful appearance at last year's final event, the "Valley Thunder" team, with Frank McBee Jr. at the wheel, came in Famoso ready to rumble. Their first qualifier put them solidly in the field with an early shutoff 5.909 - 225.52 that place them #5 in the 8-car field.

(RIGHT) Slotting in one notch below the Thunder gang, Bryan Hall in the "H & H Nomad" entry grabbed the sixth spot in the field with a 6.022 - 242.45 clocking. Not the quickest e.t. but a fairly big speed on the top end.

Bret Williamson - 'Forever Young' --- Dan Horan - 'The Patriot'

(LEFT) Last year's second place finisher in the AA/FD standings, and defending champion of the March Meet, Bret Williamson in the beautiful full-bodied "Forever Young" digger was on a good pass until the 1000' mark before clicking it to a 6.224 - 193.32 that left him outside the field.

(RIGHT) Concentrating on the dragster as son Ryan has the reins of the Funny Car, Dan Horan pounded out a very good opening lap of 5.840 at only 218.19 to grab the third rung on the ladder with the "Patriot" entry.

Phil Ruskowski - 'Xibitionist - Island Nitro' --- Phil Ruskowski - 'Xhibitionist - Island Nitro'

Back for another season of "dragon-slaying", Victoria BC's Phil Ruskowski and the "Island Nitro" gang have the small-block Chevy powered "Xhibitionist" primed for what they hope will be a season to remember. Their first attempt saw the car launch hard, then at the 300' mark jump to the right and head for the centerline, forcing Phil to shut it down to a disappointing 9.356 - 101.10 clocking.

Tyler Hilton - 'Great Expectations III' --- Brendan Murry - 'Runnin' Wild'

(LEFT) Last year's Heritage Series Nostalgia Top Fuel champion, Tyler Hilton in the now hemi-powered "Great Expectations III" car made a good pass to half track before pulling the pin and slowing to a 6.314 - 157.26 pass that left them well outside the first day field.

(RIGHT) Vetran SoCal fuel racer Brendan Murry in the full-bodied "Runnin' Wild" was another early shutoff victim, but his 6.100 - 195.70 was enough to grab a spot in Friday's top eight, in the #7 spot.

Adam Sorokin - 'Champion Speed Shop' --- Jim Murphy - 'WW III'

(LEFT) Still running the most unique car in the field, with the only canopied dragster in nostalgia racing, Adam Sorokin in the small-block powered "Champion Speed Shop Special" fell short of making the field on his first pas with a 6.307 - 193.18 that placed him #10 of the 15 cars that ran in the first session.

(RIGHT) Anchoring the provisional 8-car field was long-time runner and 2017 series champion Jim Murphy in his familiar Kelly green "WW II"

Shawn Van Horn - 'Titan Speed Engineering'

It took a bit of sleuthing to unearth the driver's correct name as Shawn Van Horn is now using his brother Nick's competition number. With the confusion cleared up, he drove the "Titan Speed Engineering" fueler through at least a burnout but didn't receive a timeslip for his efforts. We'll try to dig up the details later.

AA/FUEL ALTERED Qualifying Session #1

Running on a 6.00-index and trying to qualify for an 8-car field, the "Awful Awfuls" pits were overflowing with at least 13 cars, which included some new cars and drivers, and lots of the regular faces seen at Bakersfield. With just two qualifying sessions available, the stakes were high right out of the gate.

Jason Pettit - 'Hell Fire II' --- Rodney Flournoy - 'Godzilla'

(LEFT) Leading off the session was Jason Pettit in a rather weird looking '48 Fiat Topolino dubbed "Hell Fire II". Despite a flat black paint scheme and decidedly unfinished look about it, the car ran well with a 6.443 - 222.84 flashing up on the boards to put him solidly in the field in the #5 position.

(RIGHT) After nearly half a century burning nitro, Rodney Flournoy is still at it with his "Godzilla" entry. The family hot rod ran well to half track before shutting off early to a 7.108 - 186.10 that placed him #7 on the provisional qualifying list.

Cory Lee - 'Sheepherder' --- Mike Halstead - 'Over The Hill Gang'

(LEFT) Driver of almost everything that burns nitro, veteran Cory Lee has been at the controls of the "Sheepherder" for the past year, working out the bugs for owner John Aleman. They've been making progress, evidenced by a safe 6.330 - 210.90 clocking that placed Lee in the middle of the pack at #4 for the first session.

(RIGHT) Another veteran of Funny Cars and Fuel Altereds, Mike Halstead is now driving the "Over The Hill Gang" '23 T-roadster, and pushed the Donovan 392 engine to an early shutoff (lots of that going around, eh?) 7.450 - 163.35 to grab the #8 spot, at least temporarily. Interestingly, the car ran without a wing or any downforce inducing attachements.

Mark Whynaught - 'Nitro Mamba' --- Matt Leonard - 'Nitro Rat'

(LEFT) With a wild paint scheme on the "Nitro Mamba", driver Mark Whynaught clicked it off at the 1000' mark to avoid breaking out, with a #3 qualifying 6.249 - 209.26 pass.

(RIGHT) Sporting another eye-catching colour scheme, Matt Leonard laid down a pedaling 6.737 - 204.45 in the hemi-powered "Nitro Rat". Click on the image to see a larger view of the slicks wrapping up on the launch and the #8 cylinder puffing out some raw fuel.

In all, 11 cars made a pass in the session and the times ranged from Dylan Winefsky's low qualifying 6.192 - 223.50 to the bump spot holder, Mike Halstead with a 7.450 - 163.35. Only one more session remained on Saturday and the pressure was definitely on for the drivers on the bottom half of the list.

NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR Qualifying Session #2

Of the 18 cars that got down the track in the first session, only nine of them dropped into the 5-second zone, ranging from Kris Krabill's top qualifying 5.719 - 250.27 pass, down to the #9 sitter, Billy Morris, at 5.873 - 235.02. From there the e.t.'s quickly dropped into the 6's and slower, as evidenced by #10 (Jim Maroney's) 6.205 - 229.16. At the bottom of the 16-car field sat Rian Konno with a 26-second time. Even though there was another qualifying session scheduled for Saturday, the pressure to perform in this round was definitely in the air.

Billy Morris - 'Problem Child' --- Rian Konno - 'Lemon, Kazanjian & Konno'

(LEFT)First out of the lanes was the aforementioned Billy Morris in the Camaro-bodied "Problem Child". He failed to improve on his earlier 5.87 effort and saw his placing drop two spots to #11 by the end of the session.

(RIGHT)Wanting to get off the bump spot, Rian Konno pushed the "Lemon, Kazanjian & Konno" Mustang to much better numbers than in the first session. However, his 6.554 - 136.37 indicated that there was still work to do. Good early numbers went by the wayside at half track as he was off the throttle at that point. The verdict: still on the bubble going into the final qualifier.

Matt Bynum - 'Nitro Nick' --- Geoff Monise - 'Quarter Pounder'

(LEFT) After failing to show for the first session, Matt Bynum got the "Nitro Nick" Firebird across the finish line, but not very quickly as a 7.418 - 134.69 came up on the scoreboards. That left only one more chance for the team to get into the elimination field.

(RIGHT) Making a big improvement and climbing the charts was Geoff Monise in the "Quarter Pounder". Running for the first time without team founder Keith Clark, who passed recently, Dale Van Gundy and Monise got the Firebird into the 5.70's with a very good 5.769 - 251.02 to move up to #9 (from #15) and guarantee a spot in the field for race day.

Ryan Hodgson - 'Bubble Up - Paemaker' (near lane) 
vs Kris Krabill - 'Bartone & Lebor Racing' (far lane) --- Chris Davis - 'Old School Nitro'

(LEFT) Despite some earlier misinformation that last year's illness replacement driver Nathan Sitko was behind the wheel, it was in fact Ryan Hodgson in the hot seat again in the iconic Gordie Bonin tribute "Bubble Up - Pacemaker" Firebird in the near lane. There was no improvement on his first session 6.653 - 194.97 as the blower banged on the hit of the throttle. In the far lane was Kris Krabill in the Bartone & Lebor Racing" car that featured the Darrell Gwynn charitable foundation. Krabill wasn't able to improve on his first pass (5.719 - 250.27) and fell two spots to #3 at the end of the session.

(RIGHT) Still going "Old School Nitro" in his '77 Arrow, Washington state's Chris Davis took one step forward with an improved 6.132 - 232.99 pass after clocking in at 6.224 - 231.83 in the first go-round. Despite the improvement, he dropped four spots from #11 to #15, with just one more chance to step up to a higher placing on the ladder, or simply stay in the field.

Bill Windham - 'Shakedown' --- Bardahl Special - Heidi Austin-Cottrell & crew member

(LEFT) Having more trouble was Bill Windham in the very colourful "Shakedown" Firebird, as he wasn't able to better his first session 6.931 - 142.67 effort and dropped from #14 to #18, outside the field and nearly half a second shy of the new 6.554 bump spot.

(RIGHT) Giving each other fist bumps before backing up Bobby Cottrell in the Austin & O'Brien "Bardahl Special" were Heidi Austin-Root and an unidentified crew member. They must have been celebrating after Cottrell's run as the car stepped up to a 5.732 - 253.52 to move up one spot on the ladder to te #4 position going into the final qualifying session.

The latest update as of March 3, 2023

March Meet 2023

Here's a selection of images from Thursday's test 'n tune session. No times or speeds were available.

Tyler Hester - 'Overtime Special' --- Ron Capps - Burkholder Bros.

(LEFT) Knocking the dust off or blowing out the cobwebs, Tyler Hester took the "Overtime Special" out for a shakedown run to start his season. The team ran well last year, finishing #6 in the final point standings, appearing at just three events: going to the semis at the March Meet, runnerup at Boise, and a second round exit at the California Hot Rod Reunion.

(RIGHT) We're doubtful that this is Ron Capps at the tiller in the "Burkholder Bros." tribute '48 Fiat, even though it looks like his helmet. We can't quite see the competition number on the side of the car to confirm or correct it. We know that Sabrina Capps is competing in A/Fuel at this event but she drives a dragster in that class. Can anyone clear up the mystery here?

Bob Godfrey - 'Burnin' Money' --- Eily Stafford - 'Mark Borjon Racing'

(LEFT) Showing how easy it is to live up to the car's title, Bob Godfrey blasted down the track in his "Burnin' Money" '23 T-roadster truck. Now running as a Fuel Altered after battling in Funny Car, he's apparently slowed down the flow of the money hose somewhat.

(RIGHT) Moving over from the 7.0 PRO ranks, Eily Stafford made a pass in the "Mark Borjon Racing" rear-engine Top Fuel car. I'm not sure of the car's heritage but it does look like the former Warren & Coburn - "Rain For Rent" tribute car of a few years back.

Kamaka Pocock - 'California Hustler' --- Bobby Cottrell - 'Bardahl Special'

(LEFT) Coming out with a new paint job and major sponsor for 2023, the Don Hudson-owned "California Hustler", with Kamaka Pocock driving tested before qualifying started on Friday.

(RIGHT) Everything looked good at this point, but down track the Bobby Cottrell driven "Bardahl Special" ran into a ton of trouble. A engine explosion and fire caused an awful lot of damage, necessitating a near all-nighter by the entire crew to get the car ready for the first qualifying session on Friday afternoon.

Ryan Horan - 'Infinity Plumbing' --- Ryan Hodgson - 'Bubble up - Pacemaker'

(LEFT) Even though there was some discussion that Dan Horan Jr. was behind the wheel, it was actually Ryan Horan piloting the "Infinity Plumbing" Camaro. It appears that he will be driving the flopper in 2023, while Dad will campaign the team's Nostalgia Top Fuel entry.

(RIGHT) Ready to drive again after only one appearance in 2022, at Boise's Nightfire Nationals, where he failed to qualify, Ryan Hodgson was ready to mix it up with the Ron Hodgson-owned "Bubble up - Pacemaker" Firebird.

Mark Whynaught - 'Nitro Mamba' --- Tony Jurado - 'Capitol Punishment'

(LEFT) Testing out the traction was Mark Whynaught in the "Nitro Mamba" fuel altered. He's worked his way up from 7.0 PRO elimintor to the AA/Fuel Altered class and is capable of testing the 6.0-index.

(RIGHT) Stepping back into the his Nostalgia Funny Car, Tony Jurado was planning to inflict some more "Capitol Punishment" on his competitors to follow up a successful appearance at last season's final event at Bakersfield, the California Hot Rod Reunion.

Kris Krabill - 'Bartone & Lebor Racing' --- Bill Windham - 'Shakedown'

(LEFT) A bit of an odd combination was on display here as Covington, Washington's Kris Krabill wheeled the East Coast-based "Bartone & Lebor Racing" funny car. A nice touch was the Darrell Gwynn - Nick Buoniconti charitable foundation.

(RIGHT) Looking to atone for a mostly forgettable 2022 campaign which resulted in a DNQ at Boise and a first round loss at Bakersfield's CHRR, Bill Windham was out "shaking down" (pun intended) "Shakedown" Firebird before qualifying started on Friday.

Matt Leonard - 'Nitro Rat' --- Drew Austin - 'Pro-Max Racing'

(LEFT) We've got a feeling that this run didn't ring up any great numbers, based on the massive wheel speed as the car launched. I'm sure the next few frames were filled with tire smoke. In any case, Matt Leonard was driving the hemi-powered "Nitro Rat" '32 Bantam roadster.

(RIGHT) It appears that this wasn't a great run either as it appears that Drew Austin was launching, not burning out in the unique Ford-powered "Pro-Max Racing" Trans-Am Firebird-bodied car. With all the experience - three generations worth - we're sure they got it sorted out before qualifying started.

Rickey Fegan - 'Godzilla II' --- Derrick Moreira

(LEFT) One of the "SoCal Blower Boyz", Ricky Fegan drove the Flournoy team's second car, aptly named "Godzilla II" on a test pass. We didn't see any mention of him on any of the qualifying sheets for the event so we can only presume they were here solely to test. Or possibly they broke the car and couldn't run on the weekend.

(RIGHT) Debuting a painted, but unlettered '69 Camaro-bodied Nostalgia Funny Car, Derrick Moreira planned to run it and his regular ride, the AA/Fuel Altered in what could be a very busy weekend at the March Meet.

Shawn Van Horn - 'Titan Speed Engineering' --- Jeff Utterback - 'Advanced Surfaces'

(LEFT) After purchasing the "Titan Speed Engineering" company early last year, Shawn Van Horn and wife Krista have been busy getting the Nostalgia Top Fuel car up to speed, so to speak.

(RIGHT) Dropping back a class to the Nitro Pro Comp division was Jeff Utterback in his short wheelbased "Advanced Surfaces" '73 Vega. The NPC class has a 5.90-index and all cars run heads up: rear-engine dragsters, Funny Cars, and altereds. Any fuel, any induction are allowed. Unfortunately, there's never been a big turnout for the class.

The latest update as of February 28, 2023

65th annual Good Vibrations March Meet

Despite some seriously atrocious weather happening on the west coast, the latest reports from Bakersfield indicate mostly sunny skies, BUT some very cool temperatures, like 50 to 60 F. Even a chance of showers on Sunday, but the rest of the event should stay dry. Usually "getting there is half the fun" but for lots of long distance racers, it's going to be no fun at all traversing through snowy mountain passes and impassable roads enroute from the northwest and points east.

While this year's edition of the March Meet was shaping up to have the largest Top Fuel field in nearly a decade, with 19 confirmed pre-entries, the weather and road conditions may cut those numbers down to a barely full 16-car field. It's still going to be a ground-breaking effort with some serious money on the line for the winners, and payouts all the way down to the non-qualifiers, and tow money for the long-distance attendees. Due to some very generous contributions by Custom Floaters and Planet Fitness, and others, the total prize money for Top Fuel will be $60,000.

Read all about it in the Competition Plus article THE BIGGEST PURSE IN MARCH MEET TOP FUEL HISTORY ANNOUNCED. The question that's got to be asked is: what about the Nostalgia Funny Car guys? When are they going to find that kind of money to equal what the Top Fuel racers have secured?

The gates opened today for registration and parking, and tomorrow is first of two days of testing 'n' tuning, before qualifying starts on Friday morning. Eliminations will begin late on Saturday and continue through Sunday until the champions are crowned in the Famoso Winners Circle. We're not sure where the action will be broadcast, but Competition Plus always covers the race in detail and provides video on YouTube so we're hoping it's going to be the case again for 2023. Fingers crossed.

We did receive a photo credential for the race for Bob Snyder but his recovery from a recent hip transplant is progressing slower than he'd like and he's still going to be on the DL (disabled list) for another couple of weeks. It looks like his first event this year will be the 3rd annual Funny Car Chaos Classic at the Texas Motorplex in mid-March. We are hoping that our Denver correspondent, Dale Fackler, who will be shooting from the grandstands and Dyan Lover, who always seems to be at almost every race, will be able to provide us with some photos to fill the gap that Snyder's absence left.

3rd annual Funny Car Chaos Classic

Following two very successful editions, with HUGE participation numbers, this year's edition is guaranteed to be another true classic drag race. It's the opening event of the nine race 2023 season for the Funny Car Chaos gang. The pre-entry list is already showing 53 racers, including at least two dozen nitro burners ready to run. In addition to the floppers, there is a 20-car Outlaw Fuel Altered Association show, and the usual assortment of jet dragsters, Dirty South Gassers, Nostalgia Eliminator, and more.

With four 8-car fields of Funny Cars and a 12-car field of Fuel Altereds, the total prize money of over $55,000 will bring out some great performances by series regulars, and as always happens at this event, some one-off entrants. Back for another try with his A/Fuel Funny Car will be Randy Meyer, with young Julie Nataas at the wheel. Last year's series champion Kirk Williams will be gunning for back-to-back series titles, and he'll be joined by almost all of the 2022 Top Ten racers. There's always at least several "Big Show" nitro cars and this year will be no exception, with what appears to be no less six such beasts on the list.

Unless Mr. Snyder's recovery takes too long, we will have lots of great photos of the action to share. And we've finally given in to the inevitable and have signed up for yet another streaming service (FLO Racing) to see what's happening at the FCC events in real time.

NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Top Alcohol Points Structure

This change was announced on January 18th, but it slipped under our radar until we came across it on 2023 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Points Structure. After a one-year "experiment" with a modified points structure, ie. best four of six regional events and best six of ten national events in 2022, the NHRA reversed course and went back to the structure that had been in place for quite a few years. Here's the official announement, courtesy of NHRA.


National Championship:

Each Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car driver is eligible to earn points at their first five regional and first ten national events. A driver’s best three regional and best seven national finishes from their eligible points-earning events will constitute their NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national championship points total.

This is only conjecture but the reason for the change in 2022 must have been either to cut down on travelling costs for budget-conscious racers, and/or try to increase participation at regional events with a view to attracting more spectators. That's our take on the subject but we're open to different interpretations for the change and the change back.

Races scheduled for this week

Starting tomorrow with test 'n tune sessions is the aforementioned 65th annual Good Vibrations March Meet in Bakersfield, CA. On the east coast, the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Eastern Regional, the "Baby Gators" is on at Gainesville Raceway starting on Thursday, and just down the road at Bradenton, FL is the $100,000 to win Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod (a 48-car invitational event) that begins qualifying on Friday and concludes with a 32-car eliminator on Sunday.

It's going to be a very busy weekend of drag racing, coast to coast, and we'll do our best to bring you at least some of the highlights from each race. Stay tuned for updates throughout the weekend.

The latest update as of February 26, 2023

Western Regional - Wild Horse Motorsports Park - Phoenix, AZ

All that remained for the Top Alcohol cars today was to run the final rounds of eliminations. First up was the Top Alcohol Funny Car final. The odds certainly favoured the reigning World Champion Doug Gordon over the worthy challenger from Alaska, Ray Martin. However, the old cliche about "races are run on the track, NOT on paper" rang true again. Martin left first and finished first, as Gordon smoked the tires right off the starting line and limped to a 7.658 - 139.13 pass. Martin, meanwhile, made another consistent 5.50 run, stopping the timers at 5.552 - 259.31 for the victory. That was his 9th Regional or Divisional victory and the first since Sonoma in October of 2020.

Could lightning strike twice in two final rounds? Despite having the quickest and fastest car all weekend, and holding lane choice by more than five hundredths, Shawn Cowie had to be cognizant of what happened to Doug Gordon in the same lane, just a few minutes earlier. As expected, Joey Severance left first, but by less than two hundredths (.018 to .035), and stretched his lead by the 60' mark, but then it all fell apart for the Oregon team as something broke in the driveline, leaving him to coast down the track to an 11-second loss.

Cowie motored away with another very quick pass at 5.244 and a booming top speed of the meet at 280.43 mph. The speed was a new track record for a blown alky car and the event win was his 36th on the regional-divisional trail over the years. It was a great way to finish his first race of the season and gave him a leg up on what the Mundie's Towing team hopes is a rebounding year after their disappointing fourth place finish in 2022. Next up for both teams will be the Winternationals at the end of March, followed by back-to-back races at Las Vegas in April. Let the battle(s) begin.

The latest update as of February 25, 2023

Western Regional - Wild Horse Motorsports Park - Phoenix, AZ

Starting with a single test session on Thursday for the Top Alcohol racers, action began in earnest yesterday with the first two, of three qualifying sessions. The dragster field featured 10 cars, while Funny Car was a little lacking with just six entries. However, there were some seriously fast floppers in the field, headlined by the current World Champion, Doug Gordon in what is planned to be his final year of driving the very familiar "BETA Motorcycles Camaro. His daughter Maddi is scheduled to take over the wheel next season.

In the dragster ranks, three of the top eight cars in the country from 2022 were starting the current campaign quickly. Leading the charge was 2022's #4, Shawn Cowie who blasted out a 5.270 at an early shutoff 248.80 on Thursday, then followed it up with back-to-back 5.209 passes during yesterday's qualifying. The second pass also saw him nearly top 280 mph with a 279.73 speed for the current Top Speed of The Meet.

Last year's NHRA World Champion, Joey Severance, put down solid efforts, at 5.250 and 5.257, but with speeds down a little at 272 mph. Those numbers were good enough for the #3 spot on the ladder going into today's final qualifying session. Sandwiched between friendly rivals Cowie and Severance, was last year's #8 finisher in the championship chase, Madison Payne, in the Duane Shields-owned "Muscle Milk" A/Fuel Dragster. Her 5.213 - 271.90 in the first session on Friday left her just a few thousandths behind Cowie on the list.

On the Funny Car side, Doug Gordon let everyone know that he was ready to back up last year's championship, by hammering out a 5.503 - 265.69 on his Thursday test pass. He blasted into the 40's with an excellent 5.487 - 266.53 in the first qualifying session, then dropped an absolute bomb on the rest of the field with a 5.398 - 271.24 in the second session. Incidentally, that was a new track e.t. record for Top Alcohol Funny Car. That put the Gordon team nearly two tenths of a second ahead of #2 qualifier Ray Martin's solid, but trailing, 5.571 - 246.26 effort. An expected challenger for the top spot, Annie Whiteley, was having trouble as her best was a great half track effort in the first session that ended with a 5.784 - 188.31 clocking, good enough only for the #4 spot in the 6-car field.

The final qualifying session and first round of eliminations is scheduled for today, with the semifinal and final rounds of competition on tap for Sunday. We'll update this section with results as they come in from Wild Horse. Stay tuned for updates here.

One very interesting sidebar news from Wild Horse was the official competition debut of an EFI-equipped Top Alcohol Dragster. NHRA made a rules adjustment over the winter to allow such a combination to race and Bob Button from Gulfport, FL was the first racer to use the EFI option on his dragster. He did appear at a number of Division 7 - Western Region races last year in test mode before NHRA legalized the new combination. His test pass on Thursday went well, and yesterday's first qualifying run was solid until just past half track before it smoked an engine. Unsurprisingly, the team didn't appear for the second session and we wouldn't be surprised to see them done for the weekend.


The final qualifying session at Phoenix is in the books. The dragsters came out first, and after blowing it up yesterday, Bob Button managed to get the engine back together and made it into the lanes. The bump spot after Friday's two sessions was a 5.453 (Casey Grisel) and the first pair in this final session matched Button against fellow non-qualifier Mitch Myers. When the scoreboards lit up, with Button's lane showing a 5.394 - 262.08 and Myers' lane a 5.359 - 267.59, it rearranged the qualifying ladder significantly. Ron Anderson and Grisel were out, and Eric Chesleigh dropped from #6 to #8, setting the new bump spot at a 5.409 e.t.

The second pair of the round featured Grisel in the Darien & Grisel A/Fuel car, and he did what he had, bumping his way back into the show with a 5.373 - 263.41 to move past Chesleigh and Button to the #7 spot in the field. The run bumped out Chesleigh and put Button on the bubble with his 5.394 clocking. Unfortunately, Chesleigh's 5.44 in the other lane left him on the outside looking in. The last racer with a chance to get back onto the qualifying list, Ron Anderson was next in line and he bumped his way back into the field in a big way, blasting out a 5.285 - 273.72 to jump all the way from #10 to #4 and first round lane choice over Chris Demke. in the "Peen-Rite" machine. That bumped out Bob Button and left his EFI car as a non-qualifier in his first race. The final bump for the 8-car field was set at 5.373 (Grisel), with Button and Chesleigh on the non-qualifier side of the sheet.

The Funny Cars weren't facing any bump spot scenarios as the final session began, but lane choice(s) were at stake. In the first pair, Jake Guadagnolo climbed from #5 to #3 despite hurting the engine on the top end. His 5.577 - 250.41 was enough to put him in the top half of the field, pending the results from the other cars in the staging lanes. And it happened quickly as Annie Whiteley finally laid down a representative run from her usually hard-running car, a 5.544 - 263.26 to vault from #5 to the second spot on the list and first round lane choice. The final pair to run included Ray Martin, who tried hard to get back the #2 spot but just fell short with a solid, consistent, but not quite quick enough 5.565 - 259.41 to stay in the #3 slot on the qualifying list.


The first round of eliminations got underway with the #4 and #5 cars meeting, and in a bit of an upset, despite the lower qualifying position, Ron Anderson drove away from a tire shaking and driveline breaking Chris Demke with a 5.503 - 266.74 against Demke's coasting 7.603 - 115.29 effort. The second pairing resulted in a much closer race, especially if you ignore the reaction times. Joey Severance outran Johnny Ahten with a 5.349 - 269.46 over Ahten's 5.351 - 260.11. The reaction difference was four hundredths in Severance's favour, resulting in a one car length victory.

In the third pair of the round, Mitch Myers threw away whatever chance he had against Madison Payne with an oh-so-close -.002 redlight. It was all academic however as his 5.425 - 265.53 pass wasn't close to matching Payne's 5.259 - 272.94 winning numbers. Closing out the round were the #1 (Shawn Cowie) and #8 (Casey Grisel) racers, with Cowie winning, despite his "worst" run of the weekend, an otherwise great 5.231 - 277.60 to trainlength Grisel's second best 5.549 pass. That set up semifinal pairings of Cowie vs Anderson and Payne vs Severance.

Funny Car eliminations started with a close race between young Hunter Jones and Annie Whiteley. Jones left first by a few hundredths, but finished second by more than a few hundredths. The margin at the finish line was a little more than a car length, with Whiteley's 5.506 - 265.05 turning on the winlight over Jones' consistent 5.588 - 261.83 pass. The "Southwest Graphics" team had a great weekend despite the loss, with career best numbers for e.t. and mph that showed they were ready to be a competitive car in 2023.

With a bye to the final on the line in the next pairing, Mike Gordon simply ran way from Mike Doushgounian with another strong pass of 5.470 - 268.60 to easily outdistance Mikey D.'s pedalling 5.701 - 255.92 clocking. That moved Gordon directly to the final, assuming they would be able to start and stage the car in the second round. The first round closed with a pedal clutch vs torque converter battle, with the clutch of Alaskan Ray Martin coming out on top as Jake Guadagnolo ran into tire shake early and shut off to a mid 6-second clocking. Martin advanced with a consistent 5.632 - 259.76 that wasn't quick enough to secure lane choice over Whiteley in the semifinal.


With the sun setting and darkness descending, the semifinal round opened with the dragsters coming out of the lanes first. Leading off was Madison Payne facing the reigning world champion Joey Severance. Payne held lane choice by a 5.259 to 5.349 margin, but it didn't mean anything when the lights flashed. Severane left first by less than two hundredths, while Payne launched with the front wheels in the air. They kept getting higher and the car started moving out of the groove until she wisely lifted and coasted to a 7.299 - 123.05, while Severance motored away to another 5.20 pass, this time stopping the clocks with a 5.273 - 272.78 to move to tomorrow's final round.

The other semifinal dragster pairing was seriously anticlimatic, as Ron Anderson was unable to fire his injected nitro car, leaving Shawn Cowie with a bye run to the final. He didn't spare the horse(power)s as he pounded out another great 5.216 - 279.15 to take lane choice going into tomorrow's final round against what seems like his constant final round opponent, Joey Severance. The two best blown alcohol dragster racers in the world are going to yet another final round match against each other. Be sure to stay tuned to tomorrow's report to see the results.

The Funny Car semis opened with a bye run by Doug Gordon. All he had to do was start the car, idle up to the starting line, stage the car and shut if off to advance to the final round. However, the Gordon clan don't even know how to spell "idle", let alone do it, and Doug ripped off another great run, stopping the clocks at 5.425 - 269.94 to almost certainly earn lane choice for Sunday's final round. The one pairing of the round saw an upset as Ray Martin holeshotted his way to the final round with a very close win against Annie Whiteley. Martin cut a very close (.023) light to Whiteley's decent .089 reaction, and parlayed that .066 advantage into a .007 winning margin at the finish ine. His very consistent 5.569 - 259.11 just held off Whiteley's very close 5.510 - 265.53 charge. It wasn't quick enough to take lane choice from Gordon but it was enough to move into his first final round at a regional event in more than two years.

Nitro on The Bayou - No Problem Raceway - Belle Rose, LA

Participation among the alcohol ranks was a "little" less than at Phoneix, as only five dragsters appeared, and just three Funny Cars. It appears that most of the eastern racers decided to wait until next weekend's Eastern Regional at Gainesville to start their season. Despite the low number of competitors, there were some seriously quick and fast cars in attendance, ranging from championship contender Bob McCosh in his Funny Car, and Julie Nataas and Aaron Cooper in their A/Fuel Dragsters.

Leading the dragsters was Julie Nataas in the Randy Meyer Racing entry, with a second session 5.231 - 281.11 taking the top spot. Her speed was pretty impressive, but Wichita's Aaron Cooper

carded the top speed (he's also the national record holder in the class at 286.62) with a 283.86 mph run, coupled with his #2 qualifying 5.251 e.t. times. With the odd-sized field, Nataas earned the first round bye, and if Cooper advances over rookie Prescott Dean in the first round, he will earn the semifinal bye.

Funny Car qualifying was drama-free with just three cars in the field, but all three laid down some good passes. Leading the way was Kyle Smith with a solid 5.506, with Bob McCosh sitting half a tenth back with a pair of 5.56 passes for the #2 spot. Well back in e.t. was the "Family Fued" car of Christine Foster, but her early shutoff 5.738 - 217.72 showed that there were competitive numbers lurking somewhere under the Camaro body.


The Funny Cars opened eliminations, with the Christine Foster versus Bob McCosh pairing running first. After a strong burnout, Foster had to be pushed back to the starting line, but had no problems getting it into a forward gear. Despite running a career best (?), at 5.558 - 264.22, Foster lost to McCosh's slightly slower 5.585 - 261.35 time due to a late leave. McCosh left first by a full tenth (.056 to .156) and held on for a win of more than car length. Earning the bye run into the final due to his low qualifying effort, Kyle Smith ran hard to half track before shutting off to a 6.249 - 162.48 and advancing to the final round, albeit without lane choice.


With the (very) short field of Funny Cars, the final round was run in mid-afternoon. Holding lane choice was Bob McCosh since Kyle Smith had shut off at half track on his semifinal bye run. When the tree came down, McCosh left first by two hundredths, but the converter equipped car of Smith made up that gap - and more - before the 60' timers. He lengthened his lead to eight hundredths by the 330' clocks, then opened it up to three car lengths at the finish line. Oddly, both cars clicked it a little early, with Smith's 5.513 - 258.92 winning decisively over McCosh's 5.658 - 258.32 times.

The dragsters followed, with Aaron Cooper taking it easy on his bye run, shutting off to 7.277 - 123.68 clocking to move into the final. In the only pairing of the round, two women faced off, with New Jersey's Jackie Fricke taking the win over Julie Nataas when the Randy Meyer car was forced to pedal early and fail to catch up with a 5.646 - 254.94 clocking. Fricke took the winlight with a solid 5.370 - 276.72 pass, good enough to hold lane choice over Cooper for the final round.


In the dragster final, Aaron Cooper finished off a great weekend with another solid pass, a 5.302 - 283.25 to take the event win over New Jersey's Jackie Fricke in the John Finke owned and tuned A/Fuel car. Fricke left first by 14 thousandths, but her 5.385 - 267.35 wasn't enough to stay close to Cooper. The gap at the finish line was more than a car length as Cooper took his first win at No Problem Raceway after his runnerup performance here last year.

We'll be back tomorrow with some updates on the Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet, the World Series of Pro Mod, and the Eastern Region "Baby Gators" at Gainesville Raceway. They're all happening next weekend. And we'll have the final round results from the Wesern Region race at Phoenix. Stay tuned for those updates.

The latest update as of February 19, 2023

MARCH MEET News and other items of interest

The gates open at Famoso Dragstrip in ten days for two days of testing and tuning before the 65th annual Good Vibrations March Meet starts qualifying on March 3rd and 4th, with eliminations starting late on the 4th and finishing with the finals on March 5th. It's going to be a different race this year with a 16-car field of Nostalgia Top Fuel cars competing for $60,000 in purse money. That will make it the highest paying nostalgia race ever. Even though the Nostalgia Funny Cars are also competing with 16 cars qualified, they haven't found the sponsorship to fund the large payout that the dragsters are receiving.

Click on the link below to hear all about the event

March Meet 2023 Commercial

We will do our best to present a comprehensive report on the March Meet, with photos, captions and stories, but we're already down one photographer, as our hard working lensman, BIG Bob Snyder is still recovering from a recent hip transplant. His progess has been slow enough that he's decided to pass on the nostalgia race and set his sights on being ready for the opening of the 2023 FUNNY CAR CHAOS season. They'll kick it off with the third annual Funny Car Chaos Classic (it was called "Nitro Madness" in 2020) at the Texas Motorplex in mid-March. There's already 45 Funny Cars - hold on, it's now up to 47 - and 19 Outlaw Fuel Altereds on the entry list so it promises to be another true "classic" event.

The latest update as of February 5, 2023

The 2023 Drag Racing season is underway

After a long winter hiberation, the snow has melted at Northern Thunder's headquarters in Spirit Bay, and we're back to where we left off in early November 2022. Yes, we're still working on filling in the blanks for many of our event features from last season but we are making progress. And while we're at it, we're laying the groundwork for much quicker postings from the events we'll be covering this season. Our ace photographer, Bob Snyder, is recuperating from a recent hip replacement, and if his right knee doesn't cause more trouble, he'll be back in action starting with the 65th annual Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet in just four weeks.

After that, it's one week off before the 3rd annual Funny Car Chaos Classic kicks off the FCC season at the Texas Motorplex. There's already 39 cars entered in the Funny Car field, and 18 AA/Fuel Altereds on the pre-entry list. As it's been for the past two seasons, it's going to be a tremendous start to what should be the biggest and best season of Funny Car Chaos racing yet. With nine races on the schedule, it will be an action-packed year of "run what ya brung" 1/8th mile racing.

Partnering with Funny Car Chaos is the even wilder concept of Nitro Chaos which will double the number of events in 2023, as it's done each year since it's inception in 2021 with a single race. Last year thee were two events and this year will see a total of four, starting at Edgewater Raceway Park in late April, then as part of a double-header extravaganza (coupled with an FCC race) at Eddyville Raceway in late May. The Nitro Chaos series concludes with a race at Mo-Kan in mid July and the finale at Thunder Valley (Noble, OK) in September. An added attraction this season is a $10K points fund with $5,000 to the series champion. Individual race payouts are $7,500 to win ("A" field), all the way down to $1,000 for first round loser in the "B" field.

As stated on the Nitro Chaos home page... ANY nitro powered machine is eligble and "If it's burning 80% NITRO or better, it's legal and it's ON!". The closing line of their mission statement reads "Dragsters of any kind, altereds, funny cars, door slammers, BRING IT!". Winning the inaugural event in 2021 was Scott Palmer in his "Big Show" Top Fuel car, setting series records of 3.218 - 265.54 along the way. Last year saw former two-time NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion Megan Meyer take the "A" field win over teammate Julie Nataas at the Mo-Kan event, while a pair of Fuel Altereds battled in the final round at Eddyville. Taking that win was Jody Austin in the "Bushwhacker" over Anthony Whitfield in the small-block Chevy-powered "Mighty Mouse".

In other drag racing news, the Drag Illustrated-backed "World Series of Pro Mod" event is running at Bradenton, FL on the first weekend of March. The biggest news out of that race - so far - is the $100,000 to win purse for the 40-car invitational field in the marquee Pro Mod class. When qualifying concludes, the 32-car field will run for the BIG money in five rounds of racing. Unlike any other drag race anywhere, it's a winner take all race, with all the cash on the line in the final round. The only other money at stake is the low qualifier bonus of $10,000, a not insignificant sum on it's own.

Backing up the Pro Mods is a 16-car $25,000 to win (again, winner take all) Mountain Motor Pro Stock field which will include some of the biggest names in Pro Stock racing, including the defending (and five-time) NHRA Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders in one of the best mountain motor cars in the business, an ex-J.R. Carr Mustang. Other classes included in the show will be a 16-car NHRA-legal Factory Stock Classic field, and an Xtreme Front Wheel Drive Challenge. For those unable to attend the event in person, it has been reported that the event will be telecast on CBS Sports in prime time in mid-April, with a minimum one-hour show that may be expanded to two hours.

The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series started this weekend with the first Southeast Division Two race at Orlando, FL with fields ranging from Top Dragster and Top Sportsman, to Competition Eliminator, and on down to Junior Dragster. Solid turnouts in all categories and decent weather were a good omen for the start of another season of NHRA sportsman racing. The next events on the NHRA calendar are three weeks from now with a doubleheader Divisonal and Regional event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, as the popular Arizona facility enters it's final season of racing. Another double event is taking place at Belle Rose, LA's No Problem Raceway as the South Central Division Four season starts and the first regional event of the Central Region is on tap at the same time.

Following that big weekend of drag racing action, the March Meet and the World Series of Pro Mod will be the second consecutive week of major events which will continue until the conclusion of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Series in mid-November. In other words, it's going to be another busy year in the drag racing world. Stay on top of things by checking out our latest updates on a regular basis this year and in the future.

The latest update as of January 11, 2023

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Northern Thunder headquarters snowed in

This is the view from the next door neighbour's taken on Christmas Day 2022. The sun was shining, the snow was piled DEEP and we were stuck inside the house for the better part of a week. Just to make it even more "interesting", the sewer line froze for a day until I managed to thaw it out, then the power went out for nearly a full day, but we survived into another year. Barely.

The weather is back to normal for this time of year, with the mercury hitting the 50 (F) mark yesterday, sun shining today until the rain starts again this evening, and it appears we've dodged the worst of the winter weather already. Time to get back to work on this website and the first order of business is tidying up all the reports from last year, filling in all the details, and organizing things. Stay tuned for that to be accomplished, but don't expect to see it too quickly.

To see previous updates, go to the What's Old page

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